Sustainability efforts in the airline industry are usually focused on airplanes or terminals, but Rentech Inc. has honed in on another aspect of the industry: ground-service transportation. The fuel company has brought together eight airlines--American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, UPS Airlines, and Alaska Airlines--in a deal to use Rentech's synthetic diesel at Los Angeles International Airport.
The diesel, which consists mainly of woody green waste like yard clippings, will be produced at a Rialto, California plant beginning in 2012. Once production has begun, airlines at LAX are expected to use up to 1.5 million gallons of synthetic diesel each year. Rentech hasn't revealed how much cash the airlines will save on diesel costs in the deal.
The significance of the airlines' purchase agreement with Rentech goes beyond just fuel savings--it also hints at a future where airlines make green diesel and jet fuel purchase agreements together. So while only a handful of airlines have experimented with synthetic jet fuel, large groups of airlines might join together in the future to purchase fuel from companies like Rentech. Group purchasing of synthetic jet fuel is probably many years away, but there's no reason why the airlines involved in the Rentech/LAX deal can't seek out similar ground-service transportation arrangements at other airports now.